EPA head couldn’t care less that Trump wants to cut his agency’s budget

EPA head Andrew Wheeler defended the budget cuts last Thursday in front of lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Wheeler said to lawmakers [via the Hill]:

We are focused on the core mission of our agency so we can continue to protect the land, the air, the water, and we believe we can do that with the budget we requested.

Wheeler also continued the fight against California’s tougher standards on fuel efficiency:

It’s still better to have one national standard. I hope that when California sees our final regulation when it comes out they will agree that it’s the best approach for the entire country.

The EPA wants to roll back fuel economy standards, while California has pushed for automakers to reach an average fuel economy of more than 50 miles per gallon by 2026.

As Electrek reported on February 10, Donald Trump proposed a 26% slash to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget. It would eliminate 50 EPA programs and cut the research and development budget from $500 million to $281 million.

When Scott Pruitt resigned as head of the EPA in July 2018, Wheeler replaced him. Wheeler was previously a former coal lobbyist who worked with Murray Energy and was an aide for Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), an avid climate-science denier. As Electrek‘s Jameson Dow reported in July 2018:

Wheeler’s connection to the coal industry is strong.  As a former lobbyist for Murray Energy, Wheeler had knowledge of the three-page directive that Bob Murray gave to the EPA after donating $300,000 to Trump’s inauguration fund, with a list of demands from the coal industry for the new administrator to enact.  Wheeler was also personally involved in the DOE’s attempt at a $70 billion bailout for the coal industry with a proposed rule that was later stopped by the FERC.

Congress is expected to ignore Trump’s budget request when it comes to environmental issues.

Electrek’s Take

Most heads of departments in any private or public organization or company get upset when they lose funding, but Wheeler is cool with it.

And with all the rollbacks the EPA has been pushing through — for example, the latest being the greenhouse-gas-leak prevention rule, and in November, regulations that require chemical plants to provide the public with information about potential risks — no wonder he doesn’t care. Just look at his fossil-fuel-supporting record.

Why would you need a healthy budget when your department is washing its hands of its job to protect the environment by killing regulations left, right, and center?

Photo: Union of Concerned Scientists

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Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at michelle@9to5mac.com. Check out her personal blog.